It is with the greatest sadness that I have to announce the death of the last surviving Founder Member of the Criterion Theatre, Christine Murly.
Christine, who had been in poor health this last year, and had been settled back in Allesley Hall Nursing Home for the past few weeks after a hospital stay, passed away quietly and peacefully on 11th January. She was 93 years old and a much loved and respected member of the Criterion Theatre family. She will be sadly missed by us all.
Without the vision and courage of Christine Harris (as she was called then) and her fellow co-founders, who included her sister and brother-in-law, Beryl and John Smith, there would be no Criterion Theatre. In 1955 they formed the Criterion Players and Christine became the first Company Secretary. After a number of years of intensive fund raising they bought the old Methodist Chapel in Earlsdon and took the personal risk of standing as guarantors for the bank loan. We owe them an immense debt of gratitude.
She was a popular actress and also worked in many support roles throughout her long involvement with the Company. Her work as a teacher took her out of Coventry for a while but she never forgot her spiritual home in Earlsdon; returning often to see productions and attend special events. After her husband died she moved back to Coventry again and picked up where she left off, working with her customary enthusiasm at the Criterion. She was regularly seen on the coffee bar and also provided experienced support with the junior drama classes.
During the special event celebrating the Criterion Theatre’s 60th celebration she was visibly moved by the realisation of what she’d achieved and by the resounding ovation that the Company gave to her. She was so very proud of being a Founder member – and so are we.
Our thoughts and love go out to Christine’s family at this difficult time.
Christine’s funeral will take place at the Charter Chapel, Canley Crematorium, Charter Avenue, Coventry at 11.30am on Monday 6th February, 2023 followed by a gathering at Coventry Hearsall Golf Club, Beechwood Avenue, Coventry.